British tenor Ian Bostridge seems to have accumulated a substantial following purely by dint of sticking with his highly text-based interpretations. Nobody would pick him for sheer beauty of tone, but he makes clear what he's singing about. Bostridge comes through at his best on this live recording, taken from a performance at London's Wigmore Hall in 2014, with accompanist Julius Drake. It's one of several Bostridge recitals issued on Wigmore Hall's own label, but it's hard to think this one is bested by any of the others. Bostridge focuses not on the big Schubert hits but on settings of poems by writers that were either part of his circle or were the focus of his circle's literary interest. And the results are electric. Consider the chilling Totengräbers Heimweh (Gravedigger's Longing, D. 842 (track 10), composed in 1825. This grim meditation on death and suicide gets masterful control from Bostridge over its extreme chromatic content; he draws listeners in and never overdoes what must have caused Schubert's friends to wonder just what in the world it was they were hearing. It's strong all the way through, whether in texts by Schubert's friend Johann Mayrhofer or with a variety of other lesser Austrian poets, often taking up the subject of doomed and unrequited love that seemed so close to the hearts of Schubert's group. Drake and engineer Steve Pornoi cut Wigmore Hall down to the intimate size that Bostridge's readings require, and in general this is a real pleasure for any Schubert lover or indeed for anyone wanting to try out the music-making of this celebrated British tenor.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim